As a leader, every interaction you have with one of your leadership team is an opportunity for development coaching. The key is to make sure your direct report leader is working their brain harder than yours. Default to asking questions rather than just spitting out answers.
But there is another benefit to taking a coaching approach with your leaders. It’s a great way to bring strategy into reality. Strategic development is a vital activity for leaders. But it is a relatively easy step compared to bringing the strategy to life. It’s the day-to-day decisions of leaders across the organisation that converts the words and images of your strategy document into actions in the dynamic, messy real world. Every time one of your team comes to you with a question, an idea, a problem, or a request is the perfect chance to do this.
Your leaders truly become leaders when they think through decisions considering the business or team strategy. Let’s say one of your team comes to you with a complex decision they must make. Perhaps they are coming to you for the answer, but you decide to use this as an opportunity to drive the strategy. You can still use a coaching model, like the GROW model. With a few adaptions and different questions, your coaching conversation with one of our leaders can still be developmental but can also drive strategy. Here are some questions you can use:
- What are you trying to achieve in doing this?
- What aspect of our strategy does this decision relate to?
- How would you frame the decision you are making in terms of the strategy?
- What is going on in the business and environment now?
- What are the most significant things you are seeing from the perspective of our strategy?
- What are you seeing that might be different or contrary to what we have assumed in our strategy?
If you are aware of other significant things happening that the leader may not be aware of you can bring them in now. But after they have done some thinking first!
- What possible decisions might support the aspect of our strategy that this decision relates to?
- How will each of them drive forward the strategy?
- Which option will give us the biggest strategic impact of least effort and cost?
- Which decision do you think you will go with now?
- What will you need to consider as you implement this decision?
- Who else will you need to involve?
You may use all these questions or just some of them. The key point is that these open, coaching questions are activating the brain of your reporting leader to think like a strategic leader at whatever level of leadership they are at. If they repeatedly have this type of coaching conversation with you, over time they’ll learn to think this all through themselves. As they do, they’ll more and more come to you with better-formed strategy-based decisions. This learning will permeate their day-to-day approach ensuring that activities they authorise will bring to life the strategy of the organisation.